Advocate Article


Every day of the week thousands of motorists are stopped throughout the country and tested for excess breath alcohol.  This is despite the fact that a vast number of the drivers stopped will not have consumed alcohol, do not pose a risk to public safety and may be greatly inconvenienced by this action.  A large number of resources are committed to enforcing this difficult to enforce offence and we as a society are comfortable with this expense because the social cost of not enforcing it is simply unacceptable.  This activity is illegal and because the level of harm it exposes our communities to, most of us are happy to be submitted to the minor inconveniences that are incurred through its enforcement. 


The irony is that last year our government allowed at activity to occur that poses a great risk to our communities because to ban it would be difficult to implement and enforce.  Because it was too hard to ban, Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act allowing licensed retailers can sell drugs deemed to pose a low risk of harm.  This legislation says that it is acceptable to use of young people’s lives as test beds for drugs instead of insisting they have a rigorous testing regime before they are allowed on the NZ market.


I would imagine what an individual considers a low risk of harm and what is an acceptable level of risk will vary dependent on their world view and how that harm impacts on their personal life.  This should not be a debate on the level of harm caused by these substance compared with others but rather why is it too hard to do anything about.  In many cases when laws are passed it is difficult to know whether your particular Member of Parliament supported it or not without taking time to search parliamentary reports.  In this instance however as it was passed 119 votes to one I think it is pretty safe to say that your representative in Parliament supported this legislation.


A recent survey found almost 4 per cent of users of psychoactive substances needed emergency medical treatment and a quarter of those were hospitalised.  Typically these people were between the ages of 16 and 22.   Often they reported that they were regular users.  As business owners and parents we are seeing the futures of young people destroyed and as employers the employability of young people damaged and families in disarray as a result of these drugs.  Everyone needs to ask our political representatives whether they believe this is acceptable.

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